網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

THE DANGER AND RESOURCE OF THIS NATION.

Jonah, iii. 9.

Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger,

that we perish not?

How great is the power of God over the hearts of men ! Ninevah was the capital of a powerful empire. The inhabitants were Heatheus. The many prophets who, during a long series of years, had spoken in the name of the Lord to his professed people of Judah and Israel, had spoken almost in vain. The messengers were often mocked, and their message despised. The inhabitants of Nineveh, it is probable, had never seen a true prophet till Jonah was sent to them. If they had reasoned on his predictions, they might have thought it very improbable, that a great city, the head of a great kingdom, and in time of peace, could be in danger

of an overthrow within forty days. But it is said, “they believed God."* The awful denunciation made a general, a universal impression. The king arose from his throne, laid aside his robes, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. A sudden cessation of business and of pleasure took place; he proclaimed a strict fast, the rigour of which extended even to the cattle. His subjects readily complied, and unanimously concurred in crying for mercy; though they had no encouragement but a peradventure, “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn from the fierceness of bis anger, that we perish not?”

It appears, from this, and other passages of Scripture, that the most express declarations of God's displeasure against sioners, still afford ground and room for repentance. Thus, in the prophecy of Ezekiel, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die ; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die;"+ and again, in the prophecy of Jeremiah, “ At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them."I The Lord God speaks to us by his word, in plain and popular language. He condescends to our feeble apprehensions. God cannot re

* Verse 5.

$ Ezek. xxxiii. 14, 15.

I Jer. xvii. 7, 8.

pent, he is of one mind, who can turn him ?* Yet when afflictive providences lead men to a sense of their sins, to an acknowledge ment of their demerits, and excite a spirit of humiliation, repentance, and prayer, he often mercifully changes his dispensations, and averts from them the impending evil. Such was the effect of Jonah's message to the Ninivites. The people humbled themselves, and repented of their wickedness; and God suspended the execution of the sentence which he had pronounced against them.

My brethren, may we not fear that the men of Nineveh will rise up in judgment against us, and condemn us,t if we do not imitate their example, and humble ourselves before God? They repented at the preaching of Jonah, and immediately on their first hearing him ; and they sought for mercy upon a peradventure, when they could say no more than, Who can tell, whether there may be the least room to hope for it, after what the prophet had so solennly declared ?

God does not speak to as by the audible voice of an inspired prophet; nor is it necessary. We know, or may know, from his written word, that it shall be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. I The appearance of an angel from heaven could add nothing to the certainty of the declarations he bas already put into our bands. He has likewise raised up, and perpetuated a succession of his ministers, to enforce the warnings be has given us in the Scripture ; to remind us of our sins, and the sure and dreadful consequences, if we persist in them. Nor are we left at an uncertainty as to the event, if we humbly confess them, and implore forgiveness, in the way which he has prescribed. The Gospe!, the glorious Gospel of the blessed God is preached unto us. Jesus Christ as crucified is set forth amongst us.s His blood cleanseth from all sin ; and they who believe in him are freed from condemnation, and completely justified. They have also free access to a throne of grace ; and, like Israel, they have power, by prayer, to prevail with God and with wan.|| And shall it be said of any of us, that the Lord gave us space to repent, and invited us to repentance, and we repented not ? May his mercy forbid it!

He now speaks to us by his providence. His judgments are abroad in the earth; and it beboves us to learn righteousness.** His hand is listed up, and if any are so careless, or obstinate, that they will not see, yet, sooner or later, they must, they shall see. The great God has a controversy with the potsherds of the earth. The point to be decided between him and many abroad, and, I fear, too many at home, is, whether he be the Governor of the earth or not? His own people, to whom his name and glory are dear, will hold all inferior concernments in subordination to this. If there be no other alternative, misery and havoc must spread, men must perish by millions, yea, the frame of nature must be dissolved, rather than God be dishonoured and defied with impunity. But he will surely plead and gain his own cause, and, either in a way of judgment or of mercy, all men shall know that he is the Lord. I believe there is no expression in the Old Testament so frequently repeated as this, “ Ye,” or they, “ shall know that I am the Lord! Hath he said it, and shall he not make it good ?"*

*Numb. xxii. 19. Job, xxiii. 13. † Matth. xii. 41. Gal.ji. I. 1 John, i. 7. Rom. viii. 1. Acts, xiii. 39. Rev. ii. 21. ** Isa. xxvi. 9. 11.

Isa. ii. 10, 11, # Gen. xxxii. 28.

The rivers of human blood, and all the calamities and horrors which overspread a great part of the Continent, the distant report of which is sufficient to make our ears tingle, are all to be ascribed to this cause. God is not acknowledged ; yea, in some places, he has been formally disowned and renounced. Therefore men are left to themselves, their furious passions are un-. chained, they are given up, without restraint, to the way of their own hearts. A more dreadful judgment than this cannot be inAlicted on this side of hell.

And though we are still favoured with peace at home, the dreadful storm is at no great distance; it seems moving our way, and we have reason to fear it may burst upon us. But I would be thankful for the appointment of this day; for I should think the prospect dark indeed, if I did not rely on the Lord's gracious attention to the united prayers of those who fear and trust him, aud who know it is equally easy to him either to save or to destroy, by many or by few.f Our fleets and armies may be wel! appointed and well commanded ; but, without his blessing upon our councils and enterprises, they will be unable to defend us.

He can take wisdom from the wise, and courage from the bold, in the moment when they are most needful. He can disable our forces by sickness or dissention. And by his mighty wind, he

, can dash our ships to pieces against the rocks, against each other, or sink them as lead in the mighty waters. 6 Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, if the Lord commandeth not ?"I

Our Lord and Saviour, when speaking of the eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam tell and slew them, said to the Jews, “ Think ye that these men were sinners, above all that dwelt in Jerusalem, because they suffered such things ? I tell you Nay: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”S May the

Luke, xiii, 4, 5.

* Ezekiel, passim. Voi. III.

f 1 Sam. xiv. 6. Lam. üi. 37.

76

application of these words sink deeply into our bearts! It will not become us to say, either to God or man, that we have indeed sinned, but there are greater siuners than ourselves. It is true the French Convention, and many others who are infatuated by the same spirit, have exceeded the ordinary standard of human impiety and cruelty. But I hope there are multitudes in that nation, who, though they are overawed by their oppressors, and dare not speak their sentiments, yet are mourning in secrecy and silence for the abominations which they cannot prevent. But the French have not sinned against such advantages as we possess. They

were long the slaves of arbitrary power, and the dupes of superį stition; and of late they have been the cupes of madınen assum

ing the name of philosophers. We, on the contrary, were born and educated in a land distinguished from all the pations of the earth, by the eminent degree in wbich we enjoy civil and religious | liberty, and the light of Gospel iruth. These privileges exceedingly aggravate our sins ; and no just comparison, in this respect, can be formed between us and other nations, until we can find a people who have been equally favoured, and for an equal space of time, by the providence of God, and have likewise equalled us in disobedience and ingratitude.

The most dreadful enormities committed in France, are do more than specimens of what human depravity is capable of, when circumstances admit of its full exertion, and when the usual boundaries and restrictions necessary to the peace and welfare of civil society are judicially removed. The influence of daring infidelity and profligate example, aided by the peculiar state of their public affairs, have broken, in many instances, the strongest ties of social and relative life, and extinguished the common feelings of humanity.

Yet the unhappy French, though our inveterate enemies, are not the proper objects of our hatred or our scorn, but rather of our pity. They know not what they do. Let us pray for them. Who can tell but God, to whom all things are, possible, and whose mercies are higher than the heavens, may give them also repentance ? And let us pray for ourselves, that we may be instructed and warned by their history; for, by nature, we are no better than they.

. I. But it is time to attend more immediately to our own concerns. The professed purpose of our meeting to-day, is to “humble ourselves before Almighty God, and to send up our prayers and suplications to the Divine Majesty, for obtaining pardon of our sins, and for averting those heavy judgments which our manifold provocations have most justly deserved ; and imploring bis blessing and assistance on the arms of his Majesty by sea and

land, and for restoring and perpetuating peace, safety, and prosperity to bimself and to his kingdom.”* I hope these expressions accord with the language and desire of our hearts.

And now-Oh ! for a glance of what Isaiah saw, and has described !+ Oh! that we, by the power of that faith which is the evidence of things unseen ; could behold the glory of the Lord filling this house ; that we could realize the presence and the attitude of his attendant angels? They cover their faces and their feet with their wings, as overpowered by the beams of his majesty, and conscious, if not of defilement like us, yet of unavoidable inability, as creatures, to render him the whole of that praise and homage which are justly due to him. Oh! that by faith, we could enter into the spirit of their ascription-Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is filled with his glory! If we were all thus affected, as the prophet was, surely each one, for himself, would adopt the prophet's language. Or if a comfortable hope in the Gospel prevented us from crying out, "Wo is me, I am undone !” we should, at least, say (the Hebrew word might be so rendered) I am silenced, I am struck dumb! I am overwhelmed with confusion and shame; for I am a man of unclean lips myself, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for mine eyes bave seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

If we have a degree of this impression, we shall not be at leisure to perplex ourselves concerning, men or measures, the second causes, or immediate instruments of our calamities. The evil of sin, contrasted with the holiness and glory of God, will engross our thoughts. And we shall ascribe all the troubles we either feel or fear, to our own sins, and the sins of those among whom we dwell.

1. Let us first look at home. I am a man of unclean lips. I am a sinner. This confession suits us all, and is readily made by all who know themselves. A person approaching London from the neighbouring bills, usually sees it obscured by a cloud of smoke. This cloud is the aggregate of the smoke, to which every house furnishes its respective quota. It is po unfit emblem of the sin and the misery which abounds in this great metropolis. The Lord said of the Amorites, at a certain period, “ Their iniquity is not yet full.”I I hope the measure of our iniquity is not yet full; but it is filling every day, and we are all daily contributing to fill it. True believers, though, by grace, delivered from the reigning power of sin, are still sinners. In many things we offend all, in thought, word, and deed. We are now called upon

a

+ Isa. vi.

| Gen. xv. 16.

* Title page of the appointed Form of Prayer. Rom. vi. 14.

« 上一頁繼續 »